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Tag Archives: thomas merton

Centenary of the Birth of Thomas Merton

Merton Family
Merton Family Photograph c1909 at 35 Cambridge Tce Christchurch, NZ
Standing L-R: John Llewellyn Charles Merton (Llyn), Alfred James Merton, Beatrice Katherine Merton (Ka) Sybil Mary Merton
Seated L-R: Owen Heathcote Grierson Merton, Gertrude Hannah Merton, Agnes Gertrude Stonehewer Merton (Kit), Gwynnedd Fanny Merton (Gwyn)

On Saturday the Christchurch Chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, it being 100 years since the birth of Thomas Merton, organised a day of Prayer and Pilgrimage. After gathering for a cuppa, welcome, and morning prayer, we set off for the Carmelite Monastery of Christ the King for quiet time and Midday Prayer with the sisters.

It was wonderful to see how they are flourishing. A community of ten, they have a novice and two others to be solemnly professed later this year.

Talking to the sisters after Midday Prayer – I’m talking to Sister Cushla whom I’ve known since she was at high school

Merton at Christ's College
Christ’s College Chapel with the window in memory of George Henry Merton
Then on to Christ’s College. Thomas Merton’s dad, Owen, went to school here. Owen’s dad is acknowledged in a plaque, his uncle in a window, and his cousin, killed in World War I, on the memorial.

Again we stopped for prayer, and then looked at the display on the Merton connections with the school in the library, set up by our archivist, Jane Teal.

Then we went on to Waimairi Cemetery. Prayer and Thomas Merton’s poem at the death of his brother (Joan Baez set this to music – if you know where we can hear this, especially online, please let us know).

Waimairi Cemetery

Here are the graves of brothers Alfred and George, Gertrude, Kit, and Ka; Owen’s name appears on the stone, but we know he is not buried here. Thomas Merton corresponded with his grandmother, Gertrude (who had taught him the Lord’s Prayer), and then his aunts Kit and Ka. It was Kit who was killed in the Wahine tragedy.

We concluded the day with prayer and sharing stories. John (Thomas Merton’s cousin, Llyn’s son) had come down with his wife from Auckland. Sue (George Henry’s great-granddaughter) had come down with her husband from Napier.

Merton centenaryWe are conscious that there are events like this happening all over the world: St James Institute Sydney (here is one presentation, by Fr Michael Whelan); with further events planned throughout the year.

All of us having a longtime interest in Thomas Merton it was the less-known stories that delighted us: Thomas Merton’s grandmother when she saw the plans of 35 Cambridge Terrace by architect Harman, with it facing as it would in the Northern Hemisphere, said to rotate it through 180 degrees.

Aunt Kit sending another woman into a lifeboat saying, “I’m an older woman; I’ve had a good life. Now you get on that boat!”

How Charles, killed in WWI was not spoken of in the family. (Apart from the recording of the name on Christ’s College board with Old Boys killed in WWI, while the family had the memorial window to George, there is nothing to Charles, their only son). Charles had a son, Anthony, who was adopted by his sister when he died; and his grand daughter has now been tracked down.

A great day. Thanks to all who organised it, to all who came, and also to Carmel for their delightful including of us.

Source of the Merton family photo at the top: Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University


Thomas Merton 100 Years

Thomas Merton

This Saturday, 31 January [feast day of that other well-known saint :-) ], it is 100 years since the birth of Thomas Merton.

He is one of the most-influential spiritual writers of recent times.

He was born in Prades, France, of a Kiwi father and American mother. His dad went to the school where I am chaplain, and the Merton family name is significant in the school. On Saturday there is a pilgrimage around significant places in Christchurch associated with Thomas Merton.

I spearheaded adding him to the NZ Anglican calendar, and I’m delighted he is also formally celebrated in The Episcopal Church in Holy Women Holy Men. The collect there is:

Gracious God,
you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence,
and moved him in his contemplative writings
to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others:
Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ;
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A particularly famous prayer that Thomas Merton himself wrote is:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Today is the feast of Thomas Merton who died 46 years ago. Next year, 31 January, it is 100 years since his birth. He is one of the most-influential spiritual writers of recent times. He was born in Prades, France, of a Kiwi father and American mother. His dad went to the school where I… Continue Reading


Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thomas Merton and Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, and peace activist, living in the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France, last week experienced a severe brain haemorrhage and was brought to hospital where he remains in critical but stable condition. A litany for peace of his is… Continue Reading

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read

25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics This is not a book review. I don’t own this book – I will think about buying it. I was asked by an e-friend, in relation to this list of 25 books every Christian should read: how many have I read, or… Continue Reading

feast of Thomas Merton

feast of Thomas Merton

feast of Thomas Merton

Above: Fr. Matthew Kelty, a monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in which Thomas Merton was a monk, reads the prayer of Thomas Merton found in Thoughts In Solitude THE ROAD AHEAD My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know… Continue Reading


liturgy at General Synod

I have been able to find out a bit more about debates relating to liturgy at the meeting of General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia meeting in Gisborne from today. Motion 5 (below) is the one that confuses and concerns me most, followed by the bill on Ashes to… Continue Reading